No better time? Thoughtful observers of the news might be forgiven for thinking that we live in the worst of times: A world plagued by disease, war, mass shootings, poverty, political turmoil, and pollution. Why, then, do the New Optimists (most notably Steven Pinker) argue that we have never had it so good? Why did President Obama state in 2016 that “If you had to choose a moment in history to be born, and you did not know ahead of time who you would be …, you would choose now”? In this course, we will review the evidence that progress has indeed occurred in almost every area of well-being. We will explore why this steady improvement might have occurred -- particularly, the role that Reason, Science, and Humanism have played since the Enlightenment. We will also address why progress is often overlooked, and consider criticisms of Pinker’s optimistic view.Lecture (plus Questions); Facilitated Discussion
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